Suns Not Satisfied Despite Solid Start

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The Suns entered the season with nine new faces and at least 10 times as many questions about how the year would pan out.

A month’s worth of answers and a 9-8 record leaves them well ahead of many pundits’ predictions, creating an early feel-good vibe about Phoenix’s scrappy bunch.

Internally, however, Suns players and coaches are far from satisfied with the progress already made.

“For me, I’m a little disappointed,” Gerald Green said. “I feel like our record should be a lot better than what it is now. At the end of the month we let a lot of games slip.”

Green isn’t alone. Wins have been met with simple acknowledgement, losses with open disappointment. The latter comes with a competitive edge, stemming from a team-wide belief that even more success isn’t too much to ask from this particular group.

Phoenix impressed onlookers by handing Portland two of their three losses of the season. They showed a defensive edge early and have seen their offense blossom as of late, scoring at least 100 points in eight of their last nine games.

Yet for every two steps forward, the Suns express regret for the step back that followed. Four times last month, they had a chance to establish a three-game winning streak. Each time, they came up short.

The first three times were understandable, coming at the hands of teams at the top of the standings (Oklahoma City, Portland, Miami).

Saturday’s setback at home to the 2-15 Jazz, however, was deemed inexcusable, not for the loss, but for the manner in which it came about. In mentioning that, Channing Frye, one of the few veterans on the team, also pinpointed the ingredient that can turn the Suns from dangerous to dependable.

“I think we compete against good teams, and then teams with a lower record against us, do we compete the same?” Frye said. “I think the coaches just want consistency and they want us to get better. For us to get better, we need to learn how to get that consistency.”

It’s a sizable, yet refreshing dose of accountability from such a young team, though Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has been adamant that the second-least experienced team in the league can’t use its youth “as a crutch.”

“I know these guys can be good,” Hornacek said. “Sometimes there’s that time to be positive, but there’s also times where you’ve got to be demanding and try to push them to that next level.”

“I know these guys can be good. Sometimes there’s that time to be positive, but there’s also times where you’ve got to be demanding and try to push them to that next level.”

— Jeff Hornacek

That push will need to be a collective one. Hornacek is as realistic as he is hopeful. Sustainable improvement, he said, will need to come on a team-wide level.

“We told the guys after the game, we don’t have a single guy that made an All-Star team, yet, on this team,” he said. “We have to try to show up every night. We need all those guys.”

“We don’t have the talent level to just turn it on whenever, regardless of the team,” Frye added. “We’ve kind of hung our hat on pushing and playing together, being unselfish, executing, being aggressive.”

If the self-awareness seems harsh, it’s because the drop from contender to half-way there is equally severe. Hornacek, who was both named an All-Star and reached the Finals (twice) in his career, knows first-hand the mentality required.

"Maybe it’s human nature that you win a couple games [and suffer a let-down], but that separates the teams that are an average team looking to get an eighth spot to the championship-type teams,” he said. “We want to continue pushing them to, at some point, get to that level.”